My writing process

Thank you again to Josh Cane for inviting me to participate in My Writing Process blog tour. You can check out his writing process.

1)     What am I working on?

Potter’s Field, a reimagining of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying for fans of Marie Lu’s Legend series, is Potter’s odyssey through the tunnels below a near-future Manhattan to honor the promise she made to her dying father.

Photo by Steve Duncan
Photo by Steve Duncan

You can see photos and video from my research trip here.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

No catastrophic event has transformed Potter’s world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Instead, I imagine a time much like ours, except the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow .

I love sci-fi but my primary influences don’t come from Asimov novels and summer blockbusters. My manuscript began as a short story reflecting on my travels in Kenya. Articles about eating mud cakes in Haiti, slum demolition, social media’s role in protest, and urban exploration influenced the story’s direction. Of course, the geek in me had to include some futuristic surveillance that might be coming to a city near you.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

I believe where we live influences how we live in community and the stories we tell. A novel’s setting is important to me. (Where would William Faulkner be without Yoknapatawpha County? C.S. Lewis without Narnia? Suzanne Collins without Panem?) Setting research gives me the gumption to take trips I’ve dreamed of for years, like walking up a drain pipe in Manhattan…

…and in a drain in Queens…


…and the Paris catacombs…

…and streets of Edinburg, Scotland…

Edinburgh street
(Research for a another WIP)

Edinburgh skyline

…and places closer to home.

steam tunnel

steam tunnel

(Yes, those are all me and my husband. My brother, Ralph, shot the catacomb video and took photos in the steam tunnels.)

4)     How does my writing process work?

Outline obsessively? Throw organization to the wind? I’ve tried it all.

Once upon a time, I took outlining to a new level of insanity. When my critique group wrote about our processes, I called mine “Step-by-step Neurosis or Outlining the Novel.” I shared how I was currently working…

1. Idea germination and growth
2. Research and free-write
3. Character profiles
4. Scene worksheets and scene mapping
5. Rough draft
6. Time off
7. Fast read
8. Editorial letter
9. Rewrite
10. Rinse and repeat
11. A few good readers
12. What is its fate?

…and went into detail about why I was writing that way:

In the early days, I made notes but no outlines, and writing a novel scared the bejesus out of me. The task seemed insurmountable, so I started outlining, which was how I wrote nonfiction. Now I break the process into manageable steps that keep me focused and ensure I don’t lose steam because writing seems too hard.

Then along came Potter’s Field and the process was less rigid. All those scene worksheets had drilled basic story craft through my thick skull. I just did it, leaving more time to dream about my next writing adventure.

Next week on the blog tour

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Elle Blair has called every southern state along the East Coast home at one point or another. She earned a Communications degree from the University of South Florida, then spent another two years studying ceramics in North Carolina. No one could have convinced her that one day she would open a word processing file and never want to go back to her pottery wheel. Now she writes young adult novels in Richmond, Virginia.
You can visit her blog at:

I recommend you check out blog tour posts by   and Leila Gaskin.